Archive for May, 2013

Second Chances

Posted: May 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

In addition to my passion for running and coaching, I have enjoyed a lifelong passion for motorcycles. As a young boy, I wore out the pages of the Sears catalog dreaming about my first motorcycle. I received my first mini- bike when I was 9 years old, during my summer vacation with my mom in Illinois. I lived with my dad during the school year and only saw mom during the summer.

I would ride up and down the frontage road along Interstate 80 (just outside of Chicago) dreaming of exploring far away places; like a modern day cowboy. My interest in all aspects of motorcycling continues to strengthen and expand. A milestone in my motorcycling enjoyment and exploration occurred several years ago when I attempted a Saddle Sore ride (1,000 miles in 24 hours) sponsored by the Iron Butt Association. This is an organization that you have to ‘earn’ your membership into. Prior to this ride I would never ride more than 100 miles and never in the rain or dark. During my 17 hour ride where I covered 1146 miles, I rode in all those conditions quite extensively. My mindset and confidence changed considerably after this ride.

My next journey was a 10 day ride through 13 states and 5,000 miles. It rained all 10 days but it didn’t dampen my spirit or enthusiasm for motorcycle exploration. I remember riding the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville, NC to Roanoke, VA in a torrential downpour through nearly 300 miles of challenging mountains. I never saw another motorcycle on the road the entire distance. I certainly conquered the distance and the conditions during that ride and my confidence and desire to further explore distant destinations increased.

Most recently, I have been planning a ride on a more significant scale. I leave July 9th for a 13,000+ mile journey to the four corners of the United States. This ride is sponsored by the Southern California Motorcycle Association ( I will be riding solo this entire ride and will only be carrying a messenger bag. I leave from Madawaska, Maine and ride to Key West, Florida. I will then attempt a 50CC (riding coast to coast in less than 50 hours) from Jacksonville, Florida to San Diego, California. From San Diego I will ride to Blaine, Washington. I plan to complete this ride is 8 days. The 50CC ride is sponsored by the Iron Butt Association ( I am required to document every aspect of both rides. I’ll have police officers in the aforementioned cities sign off on my arrival and departure, take pictures with a special towel displayed (given to me at the beginning of the journey) at landmarks in each city, and record all my movements with gas receipts and a two-way satellite communicator. I will be providing a website so anyone interested can track my progress.

After concluding the Four Corners Tour and the 50CC, I will be attending a rally in Portland, Oregon for BMW motorcycle owners from around the world. I expect to earn the coveted Long Distance Rider Award at the conclusion of the rally. I will also be visiting and running with Kristen LaBarca ( who I have had the honor and privilege of coaching. Kristen recently ran Boston in 3:30 and is running the Newport Marathon in Oregon this Saturday. As a marathoner, there’s no greater accomplishment than validating a Boston Marathon Qualifying Time by qualifying again on the Boston Marathon course. I’m so proud of Kristen!

I plan to ride back to New England in a more leisurely pace of 5 days.

Much like a marathon, preparing for a ride of this magnitude requires extensive planning, dedication and training. On Memorial Day I completed a 300 mile ride as part of that preparation. Just 2 miles from home a young driver pulled out in front of me and abruptly stopped. To avoid running into the back of him I had to swerve to his left. Just as I moved my motorcycle around the rear of the car, he immediately turned left back into the parking lot he just exited. My life flashed before me and a collision was inevitable…a little unsettling. I did everything possible to minimize the impact but my BMW collided with the left side of his car…it wasn’t pretty. He took away every possible option I had to avoid this accident.

This was my first accident in 40 years. However, I’ve avoided countless accidents, mostly inattentive drivers texting. After gathering myself, I called 911 and immediately heard the Grafton Police responding with their sirens blaring. I also had the presence of mind to call Lori and let her know that I had been involved in an accident and to reassure her that I was unharmed…adrenaline was coursing through my body. The young driver was cited for failure to yield and I nursed my formerly immaculate motorcycle home…albeit a bit shaken.

The following morning I work up and felt like a little league baseball team had taken batting practice on my upper body. My wrists and hands took the brunt of the force but my Schuberth helmet hit the side of his car and did it’s job perfectly. I wear the best protective gear made…all the time.

After a battery of texts and x-rays at UMass I was given a clean bill of health…and a second chance!

Newest Marathon Coalition coaching staff member and sports psychologist, Grayson Kimball, offers the following recommendations for those running the Run To Remember half-marathon this weekend:

Mental Training Tips from the Grateful Runner…

This coming Sunday, Memorial Day Weekend, 8,000 runners will gather at the Seaport Hotel in Boston for the Run to Remember Half-Marathon. With a week to go before the race, now is the time to really focus on your mental preparation. While you won’t experience any significant gains or losses in your physical conditioning, your mental conditioning can be significantly influenced.

Here are a few mental tips for you to practice throughout the week:

  •   Identify your true purpose for running the race as this will serve as your motivation to keep you moving throughout the 13.1 miles
  •   Check out the course map to become more familiar with the route
  •   Visualize yourself running the course in a strong and efficient manner
  •   Develop a positive mantra you can use if things get challenging on race day
  •   Focus on all the positive aspects of your training and why you will have a great race
  •   Enjoy the moment – take pride in your accomplishments and have a Grateful Run


For more mental training strategies, check out

2013 Providence Marathon

Posted: May 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

In the aftermath of the senseless tragedy that occurred at the recent Boston Marathon, I needed to reconnect with the marathon community and all that it offers.  I made a commitment before Boston to support Cheryl Taylor Cleary in Providence so I was extremely excited to share Providence with her.

I met Cheryl in Grafton the day before the marathon so she could give me 6 bottles of a special concoction that I would be providing her throughout the marathon.  She had them numbered so I placed them in my backpack and on my bike in sequence.  I met her at the starting line the following morning and immediately sensed her focus and intensity…she was ready!

Her confidence was intoxicating and immediately took my excitement to an incredibly high level.  I knew it was going to be an incredible day.  We discussed her race strategy so we were totally calibrated on what to expect.  I instructed Cheryl that I would be staying slightly behind her so I wasn’t a distraction.  She signaled when she wanted the designated bottle and we developed a rhythm right from the outset.

It didn’t take long before a rather large pack started forming around Cheryl.  Runners are attracted to energy and Cheryl was motoring.  Her form was absolutely perfect and she was simply floating along the course.  I sat back and interacted with everyone in the group.  Everyone was shooting for a Boston Qualifier and many were attempting to break 3 hours.

This group stayed together for quite some distance, only 3 women were in the group.  An interesting dynamic occurred as Cheryl and I interacted; the other women tightened the distance around Cheryl to hear our conversation.  The pace was intense so several of the men started to drop back.  I stayed with them and coached them on what they needed to do to regain contact with the group.  They relaxed their form and removed all negative thoughts as I helped them make their way back to the pack.

The group went through the half-marathon at 1:31:20…just under 7 minutes per mile pace.

At about mile 17 Cheryl indicated she was starting to hurt.  The temperature was 60 degrees at the start and the humidity was 98%…not ideal.  There were also lots of turn and hills to disrupt the runner’s rhythm.  Cheryl had moved on from the huge freight train and was running alone.  I simply tried to keep her calm and focused.  We spoke only when necessary so she could maintain her focus on weathering this storm with as little effort as possible.  She was in 4th place but wasn’t too concerned about anything more than regaining her rhythm.

Several miles later we noticed the 3rd place woman approximately 300 yards ahead.  Cheryl easily could have stayed within her comfort zone and maintained her position.  But she said, “I have to go for it!”  That is the spirit of a fighter!  These are the money miles of a marathon that separate those runners that are going to likely establish a PR from those going home completely disappointed.  I’ve always felt the halfway point in a marathon is 20 miles.  The last 10K can be incredibly difficult if you haven’t managed your energy very well.

Cheryl eventually regained her form and rhythm and was back on pace.  She was closing on the 3rd place woman.  I instructed her to take a moment to gather herself and to move by her decisively.  As Cheryl motored by her I glanced over and noticed a look of surprise and devastation on her face.  They didn’t exchange a word…this was all about taking care of business.

I felt such incredible pride in Cheryl.  For the first time in the marathon I started to get emotional.  She had trained so hard and wasn’t backing down.  She was keeping the Demons of Doubt at bay and was simply chipping away at the Providence skyline in the distance.

My goal was to be encouraging but not distracting…a delicate balance.  Cheryl eventually was running with the half-marathoners so I had to clear a path so she didn’t have to waste energy by moving around them.

As we crossed the final bridge and approached the 26 mile mark, it was simply magical.  Cheryl was charging to the finish line with every ounce of energy remaining in her depleted body.  She took the final turn and the crowd was yelling and cheering uncontrollably.  I moved back and as close to the barriers as possible…I wanted this to be HER moment.

Her finish was surreal…although she was charging to the finish, time seemed to stand still.  I was watching someone with endless determination, someone who had trained so hard, someone who had 4 children in 5 years yet managed to maintain a high level of fitness.

I was watching a dear friend accomplish something huge.

I met her as she crossed the finish line in 3:08:11 (7:11 pace) and the 3rd woman overall.  She collapsed into my arms and we shared a brief but extremely special moment.  The finish line volunteers were equally proud and excited for Cheryl…it was special.

I waited for the next two women and congratulated them on a hard fought marathon.  The finish line of the marathon is magical.  Everyone becomes one!

I had a large group of Marathon Coalition runners on the course making their way to the finish line….the Road to Redemption…so I needed to depart quickly so I could support them also.

Of all the marathons I’ve competed in during the past 35 years, this one was very different.  This day allowed me to heal from the Boston Marathon tragedy.

Cheryl, thank you for including me in your special day.  I could not be more proud of you!

Your rocked the 2013 Providence Marathon!

I am so excited to announce that Dr. Grayson Kimball has joined the Marathon Coalition coaching staff as our official sports psychologist.  Dr. Kimball and I coached together at Team In Training and he’s continued to provide mental training support to Marathon Coalition runners the past 5 years.

Coach Greg and I are thrilled and excited to welcome Grayson to our TEAM.  The 2014 Boston Marathon promises to be the best ever and our runners will have a more rewarding, empowering and meaningful experience resulting from the expertise Grayson provides.

Welcome Grayson!

Grayson Kimball


  • Applied Sport Psychology Consultant for over 10 years – working with athletes of all ages, sports, abilities (youth through Professional)
  • 6-Time Marathon Finisher (including 3 Boston Marathons)
  • Author of Grateful Running: Mental Training for the Long Distance Runner –
  • Assistant Coach for 2008 Team-n-Training Boston Marathon Team
  • Certified Sport Psychology Consultant with the Association for Applied Sport Psychology
  • Member of the United States Olympic Sport Psychology Registry
  • Full-Time Faculty in Sport & Exercise Psychology Graduate Program @ Argosy University Online
  • Adjunct Faculty @ Northeastern University

Coaching Philosophy

Marathon running is as much about conditioning the mind as it is the body. While runners focus primarily on their daily/weekly runs to get themselves ready for race day, it’s the mind that will push the runner past their perceived limitations and over the finish line. Ever since I started training for my first marathon in the Winter of 2001-2002, I made it a priority to train my brain to think for success on every run. I have taken that same philosophy when coaching runners over the past 10 years. Teaching runners to become more aware of their thoughts and how that influences their performance is the first step in developing the mental toughness needed to endure the rigors of the marathon.

Running With An Angel

Posted: May 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

I have had the honor and privilege of coaching Kristen Wilson LaBarca for the Boston Marathon and now the Newport Marathon.  We set a time goal of 3:30 for Boston, which would be a PR for her.  She had to make a quick pit stop along the course and ended with an official time of 3:30:30…extremely well done.  I’m so proud of her on so many levels…she’s a dedicated runner that manages all facets of running with perfection, she’s equally dedicated to her family and friends, she’s a wonderful writer (as you will see), and is just one of the most charming, delightful and compassionate people who I have been blessed to know.  I hope you enjoy her post!

It  was early spring of 2012 and I was running on a neighborhood route that I have run at least a hundred times. Turn right out the front door.  Run four blocks and then turn left.  Continue straight for a mile and a half until the street dead ends at the high school.  Run as many one mile loops around the high school as necessary before turning around and heading back home.
 I like this route for runs that are under 10 or so miles, especially on runs where I need to keep a specific pace.  It is an easy, flat run that doesn’t cross any major intersections and the streets are usually empty enough that I can run in the street without worrying about traffic.  The streets are lined with 100 year-old maple trees providing shade (or, more often, rain cover) for the equally old homes in the neighborhood.  It is the perfect route for the everyday, run-of-the-mill miles that I do mid-week during marathon training.  And ideal for letting my mind wander wherever it wants to go.
Back to last spring…
 I was running part of this route on one of my long runs and it was a cold, wet and gloomy day.  My mood matched the weather and I just wanted to be done.
Then, suddenly, there was someone running just off my left shoulder.  I knew instantly that it was my mom’s dear friend, Trudy.  I had grown up going on rafting trips on the Lower Salmon River in Idaho with Trudy’s family.  These week-long, unguided, filled-with-adventure raft trips were the highlight of our summers when we were young.  Spending a week in the great outdoors with no walls for privacy (and a shared poop bucket that we carried with us in a raft every day) made for some close ties between us all.  Ghost stories told over late night campfires, early mornings watching the sunrise over the canyons, water fights between rafts that left us all soaking wet, quiet afternoons spent reading books with our feet buried in the sand…this is where Trudy’s family, along with all the other families, became not only friends and neighbors but like family.

group pic after a game of beach volleyball – Lower Salmon River (circa 1991)
early morning quiet before the sun rises above the canyon walls
Middle Fork of the Salmon (1998)
So it was with joy and happiness that I felt Trudy’s presence next to me on that gray, chilly day last spring.  I found myself suddenly noticing the early cherry blossoms on the trees, the bit of sunlight struggling to make its way through the thick cloud cover as the rain lightened, the lone bird singing a song and the tulips that were just beginning to bloom.  My pace quickened and my spirit lifted.

As it turns out, Trudy had passed away just a few months earlier, following a courageous battle with cancer.  Although she obviously wasn’t actually running with me in the physical sense, she was there in every other sense — helping me to see the beauty that surrounded me, to hear the sounds of life in my neighborhood, to smell the freshly cut grass and to fill my heart with a sense of peace.
 When I returned home from that run, I emailed Trudy’s daughter, Sara, to let her know what I had experienced and to thank her for “sharing” her mom with me for a little while.  In all the time I had known Trudy, I had never even known her to be a runner.  As it turns out, she was a runner in her younger days and one of the last memories that Trudy shared with Sara in the week before she passed away was one about running with a girlfriend and feeling the fresh air on her face while watching the sun rise.
Fast forward about a year and I found myself again plodding along my same route on a similarly gray day in late March.  I had probably run along this same stretch of road almost a hundred times since that day last spring.  Once again, I was training for a marathon and was just putting in the miles on a day when my heart wasn’t really in it.  And, again, Trudy was suddenly with me, just off my left shoulder.
By the end of the run, the sun was bursting through the clouds and my soul was equally bursting with gratitude.  Gratitude for my family, my friends, my health, my life…and for the gift of Trudy.
 She left behind a husband, three sons, a daughter, their respective spouses, eight grandchildren and countless friends.  She left behind memories of laughter, tears, hugs, joy and an endless capacity to love others.  Somehow, amazingly so, she continues to do all these same things to this day.  I know I felt her love on those two days this past year and I will always be looking over my shoulder just to see if she wants to run with me again.

Trudy and Dan on their wedding day in 1969
Trudy as a young mom
Trudy’s grandchildren…who will never forget their Grammy

Julie Balasalle

Julie is pictured here with 1984 Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson.

I have never thought of myself as a runner. I didn’t grow up running track and the words “I’m just going for a run” never came out of my mouth.  Running was something that athletes and people in shape did effortlessly, not me. That changed on January 3, 2012 when I stepped on a treadmill and began an incredible journey that has taken me far beyond anything I ever imagined. I began to run. Slowly, at first, alternating between walking for 90 seconds and running for 60 seconds until I was able to run continuously for 30minutes. I completed a sprint triathlon that August. Running became a part of my life.

In November, I was invited to join the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts 2013 Boston Marathon team. Putting aside my self-doubt, I accepted the invitation and began training with the Marathon Coalition, an incredible group of charity runners. Under the guidance of our Coach Rick Muhr, we trained through the cruel New England winter to prepare ourselves for Marathon Monday. After 4 and half months of intense training that included running different parts of the course from Hopkinton to Boston, the day had finally arrived to do it for real.

The morning of April 15th was absolutely gorgeous. I arrived at Park Street station to meet the rest of my team and join the thousands of other runners who were waiting to board busses to Hopkinton. There was excitement in the air that stayed with us in the Athlete’s Village and only grew stronger as we approached the starting line in the last wave of runners.  My heart was racing with pure joy and excitement as the starting gun signaled that we were off!

The next 21 miles were nothing short of incredible. It was truly awe inspiring to run with my team and so many charity runners that were running to support such important causes. My favorite part was hearing the cheers of all the spectators who screamed our names that were written down the sides of our arms to keep our spirits up. As I ran through Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, and Newton, I was floored by the support we received.

Near mile 17, I was starting to feel severe pain in my hip and I slowed down significantly. For the past 4 months, our coach had talked to us about the tremendous feeling of crossing the Boston Marathon finish line and I knew that I wasn’t going to stop running. I kept imagining seeing my parents and brother and sister in law as I took that step on Boylston Street and it kept me going through the pain.

As I made my way up the infamous Heartbreak Hill, I was told by a Boston Athletic Association volunteer that the race was over because of an incident at the finish line. After running 21 miles and hearing that, I was confused and couldn’t believe that he was actually serious. He told me that there were people injured and dead at the finish line. I immediately put my hands on my thighs and felt lightheaded. My family was waiting for me there.

I was herded with other bewildered runners into a medical tent. The phenomenal medical staff took my blood pressure and attempted to calm me down as I frantically tried to call my family. Panic was coursing through me because all the cell phones seemed to be jammed. As a social worker, I knew it was important for me to stay grounded, but when I learned that there were two explosions, probably bombs, and that the scene in Copley was gruesome, my state of panic continued to grow.

During my long training runs in the past months, I had dreamed of crossing the finish line, receiving my Boston Athletic Association medal, and getting wrapped in a Mylar blanket before hugging my family. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would be sitting in a medical tent 5 miles from the finish line wrapped in a Mylar blanket, trying to find out if my family had survived a bombing. Up until this point, the day had been a pure example of friendship and unwavering support from runners and spectators alike. I remember thinking that it was strange that a day that began so beautifully and with the hope of accomplishing something great could end in such terrible tragedy and despair.  It all felt so surreal.

Although I was trained in crisis response during my MSW schooling, I was at a loss for being able to keep that in perspective. That day, however,  I was reminded of how important it is to have  first responders around you like social workers and helping professionals who can keep that perspective for you.  I was lucky enough to have a good friend with me who was able to help keep me in the moment and respond to text messages and Facebook posts from friends who were concerned for my safety. The doctor kindly insisted that I take deep breaths and drink Gatorade to replenish the electrolytes that I had lost in the past 4 hours of running. It felt strange to be on the receiving end of help, rather than giving it. I am forever indebted to my friend, the medical staff, and volunteers who helped me that day. Later, I would look back at that time as a shining example of how much more good there is in the world than bad.

Thankfully, my friend’s husband was able to reach my parents on their cell phone from the landline in his office. They were less than a block away from the second bomb, but they were safe. My brother and sister in law had been underground on the green line on their way to see me in Brookline and they were safe as well. It felt like I was only able to breathe again once I was reunited with them later that night.

Amid the swirling of the many complex emotions I felt that day, knew I needed to complete 26.2 miles. I wanted to prove to myself that I could actually finish a marathon, but also I wanted to cross the finish line for those who would never be able to, and to take back the sense of accomplishment that these events had taken from me. So on the evening of April 15th, I signed up for the Cox Sports Marathon in Providence on May 12th, less than a month after the Boston Marathon.

I wanted to run every mile for Boston, the city I was born and raised in, for those who lost their lives, and for those who will continue to recover from physical and emotional wounds. When I lace up my sneakers that morning, I will do so with a strong and grateful heart. And I will proudly call myself a runner.

Best Buddies

Posted: May 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

Tom Brady

I was honored to spend an amazing evening in Boston at the Seaport Hotel with Tom Brady and the Best Buddies Marathon TEAM!  Anthony Kennedy Shriver (Founder of Best Buddies) announced that the money raised from the Tom Brady Football Challenge on May 31st will be donated to those affected by the  tragedies that occurred at the 2013 Marathon.

I asked Tom if he ever thought about running a marathon and he said, “Yes, I actually have.  It takes a lot of discipline and you have to be so dedicated, especially training for Boston through the New England winter.  I have two sisters who have run Boston and will be running it again in 2014 so I’ll be on the sidelines cheering for them.  But I expect to run a marathon when my playing days are over!”

I am so proud to be the coach for Best Buddies, an organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities by providing opportunities for one-to-one friendships and integrated employment.  I look forward to having them join the Marathon Coalition again in 2014.  The 2014 Boston Marathon promises to be the best ever!

Best Buddies Boston